Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: The Earth, Its Structure & Its Changes

I'm excited to have the opportunity to review The Earth, Its Structure & Its Changes by Tom De Rosa and Carolyn Reeves.  This book is part of the Investigate the Possibilities curriculum series, and is targeted towards grades 3-8.  I also am reviewing the companion Teacher's Guide and Student Journal.

I'm very excited about this curriculum and how we are going to be able to use it in our home.  In the past I have avoided doing most science experiments because the logistics of doing them is too hard for me to juggle.  First of all, I have kids in 3 different grades, all doing different science levels and experiments at different times.  Also in the past it seems that the "earth science" unit happens to fall during the winter when it is impossible to get outside and explore any rocks whatsoever.  This curriculum is about so much more than labeling the layers of the earth and looking at rocks.  I can take this one curriculum and use it for all 3 of my oldest children (grades 4, 6, and 7).  The books were built on the National Science Education Standards for levels 5-8, but the authors also considered recommendations for grades K-4.  You know what that means...my Kindergartner and my 1st grader should also be able to listen in and participate and pick up on these activities!  So now I have just tackled earth science for everyone at one time.

The student book is divided up into 20 "investigations".  It is designed to be done over the course of one semester, with labs held once a week.  The full-color pages are interesting and the material is well-organized.  The book flows well from lesson to lesson and is easy to "get the hang of".  Even though we haven't officially started yet, the kids have enjoyed looking through the book on their own time.  Each investigation begins with an experiment of some sort.  A list of items needed to be gathered is easy to see.  In most cases, the items on the list are normal household items (ie: no need to buy expensive parts or kits from somewhere).  Each experiment has step by step instructions with questions for the students to answer.

The next pages include the lesson that applies.  Some of it is fairly detailed.  It will be perfect for an 8th grader.  Your student will absorb what they can.  Application sections include "Dig Deeper", "What Did You Learn?", and "Pause and Think."  Some of the questions are easier, and some will require more thought.  I love how it is easily adjustable to each individual child's level.  I don't have to think hard about how I can make this work first for my 4th grader and at the same time for my 7th grader. It is also worth mentioning that this is a Christian curriculum and includes scripture references where applicable.

This is by far one of the best curricula I have ever seen for doing experiments.  It is so thorough and well put-together.  The simple act of following directions, recording observations, making hypotheses, and answering questions are so good by themselves that it almost doesn't matter WHAT we are studying.  We will be building a solid foundation for successful lab experiments in the future.  

Some of the first lessons in this book explore plate tectonics and earthquakes.  How cool is that?  It is really good timing for us!

The first half of the Teachers Guide and Student Journal includes a black & white small version of each page in the student journal.  Objectives, notes, and the answers to the "What Did You Learn?" questions are included below each applicable page.

The second half of the Teachers Guide and Student Journal is the student journal.  The pages are perforated so they can be easily removed.  Questions from the experiment are repeated here, as well as from the "What Did You Learn" section, with space for the student to write in the answers.  The spaces aren't long.  I think this will be encouraging for my students--they will realize I'm not expecting them to write paragraphs, but a short sentence or two will do.  Permission is not given to reproduce (make copies of) the Student Journal--though it is printed in black & white.  I am going to consider writing the publisher to request permission.  Otherwise, I'll let each of my kids create their own journal in a composition book using the journal here as a guide.  At $5.99 from CBD.com, the price for the journal is very affordable.

Oh!  This book is not just for homeschoolers.  This is a great curriculum that you could pick up to do with your kids over summer break.  It really is broken down well and you don't have to be a teacher to teach this!

This video will be great for stirring up a little excitement:

I was given a complimentary copy of both books for review from Master Books (a division of New Leaf Publishing Company). I was not required to write a positive review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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